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Israel delays recognition of Armenian genocide to hurt Turkey’s Erdogan

June 4, 2018 at 3:06 pm

President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan seen at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Extraordinary Islamic Summit Conference at Istanbul Congress Centre in Istanbul, Turkey on 18 May, 2018 [Berk Özkan/Anadolu Agency]

Israel has delayed a debate on recognising the Armenian genocide until after the Turkish election so as not to aid President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s re-election campaign.

Three bills were scheduled to be debated by Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation yesterday, but were postponed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli officials recommended not discussing the issue of the Armenian genocide before the Turkish elections, which are due to take place on 24 June, because to do so would serve Erdogan in his re-election campaign and help him unite Turkey behind his party, according to Haaretz. It is not clear when the debate will go ahead.

The move is the latest in an ongoing diplomatic spat between Israel and Turkey, after the latter expelled the Israeli Ambassador to Turkey in May. The expulsion came in response to Israel’s killing of hundreds of Palestinians taking part in the Great March of Return protesters along the Gaza border. Turkey also considered a ban on importing some Israeli goods following a meeting held by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), of which Turkey is a member. In retaliation, Israel expelled Turkey’s consul to Jerusalem.

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Haaretz sees the postponing of the debate on the Armenian genocide as the latest attempt by Knesset members “to outdo each other in coming up with ways to take revenge on the Turkish government for ordering the Israeli ambassador out of the country and recalling the Turkish ambassador.”

Although Israel and Turkey have held formal relations since 1949, more recently relations have been strained. Turkey was critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza during the 2008 war and tensions reached a new low during the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which ten Turkish activists were killed while taking part in the Freedom Flotilla off the coast of Gaza.

In economic terms, relations have fared better, with Israel the tenth-largest market for Turkish exports in 2017, buying some $3.4 billion of goods, according to IMF statistics. Data from Turkey’s statistics institute shows that trade volume between the two was at $4.9 billion in 2017. Turkey, which has a trade surplus with Israel, imports plastics and mineral oils among other goods from there.

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Israel already partially recognises the Armenian genocide and has been marking its anniversary every year since 2012, but has thus far refrained from full recognition due to its special relationship with Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan and Turkey do not recognise the Armenian genocide and deny that the massacres took place.

Tamar Zandberg, the chairwoman of the left-wing party Meretz that called for the debate, called this lack of recognition “a moral stain on Israel and on every country that chooses, out of its own interests, to ignore the suffering of the other. For us it is a matter of morality and not a momentary political act.”

It is estimated that between 1915 and 1923, 1.5 million Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks were systematically killed at the hands of the Ottoman Empire that ruled the region at this time.